Despite the threat of rain, hundreds gathered at the first-ever One Greenport Cultural Arts Festival this Sunday—a three-hour event at Mitchell Park celebrating the town’s diversity through music, dance, art and food.
“The spirit of this event is to have an event that celebrates the community and all the different art, music, dance, etc that goes on here,” said Greenport Village TrusteeDoug Roberts.
The event featured a performance by the multi-talented Spanish-speaking clown “Panquesito,” who told jokes, made balloon animals, performed magic tricks and even juggled dishes with just his mouth to the delight of all children there.
The dance part of the festival saw Main Stage Academy’s school-age dancers, in pink and blue sequin costumes, perform two choreographed routines. The colorful skirts of the women’s Guatemalan folkloric dance troupe Rabin Ajau—”the Daughter of the King” in the Mayan Q’eqchi language—swished back and forth to the rhythm of traditional Guatemalan musical pieces while the men, all dressed in white with red foulards, accompanied them.
The guitar duo Octavio and David—from Mexico and El Salvador— played and sang traditional romantic Spanish songs and invited attendees to sing “Cielito Lindo” with them. Several members of the folkloric Guatemalan dance group spontaneously joined sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate and started swaying to the rhythm of the Spanish ballads in a joyous moment of unscripted dancing.
Local students’ art was displayed behind the stage and the restaurant Tikal across the street from the park offered free “pupusas,” savory cheese-and-bean topped pancake-shaped delicacies from El Salvador.
The Greenport Elementary School choir led by Mrs. Cabral sang several inspiring songs such as “One Nation” and the gospel group Just B ’Cus concluded the event with various lively religious-themed songs. Attendees who had been circulating all afternoon throughout the park left the venue reluctantly and only because it started to rain.
“Something like this is very important. The people who are here, from all different cultures, say how important and wonderful it is for us to mix and mingle and see the wonderful things everybody has to offer each other,” said Smyth.
“That’s the thing that helps lower tensions, helps develop friends, better understanding of each other…makes the community become stronger because we don’t look at each other as ‘the other,’” she said.
One Greenport member Dinni Gordon agreed and added that wanting to be integrated is important to all members of a community, especially in a town such as Greenport.
“This is a small town, but it is unusal in the sense that it has a lot different communities, many different kinds of people…that was true a 100 years ago with a different group of ethinicities and is true again now and it’s a wonderful thing we should be celebrating and that’s what we’re doing today,” said One Greenport member Dinni Gordon.
One Greenport is a volunteer committee that was created in the Fall of 2016 with the purpose of bringing the different local communities together in an effort to integrate and celebrate diversity in a non-political way, said Roberts. Roberts, Smyth, Gordon, local business owner and civic leader Gustavo Acero and others joined forces in and quickly started planning a summer-oriented event that featured local talent.
The venue was also an important part of the planning since they wanted to have the festival happen at the heart of Greenport and central to everybody. Mitchell Park with the carousel, stage, lawn and waterfront views was the ideal choice and the group filed an application with The Friends of Mitchell Park. As a charitable organization whose “mission is to promote the well-being of the park,” The Friends of Mitchell Park reviewed One Greenport’s proposal, approved it and provided funds at a cost of about $1,500 that primarily went towards sound and other technical set-ups.
The event was also co-sponsored by the village. Smyth and the Greenport Union Free School District helped with the organization.
“It’s our first time this year, but hopefully we’ll keep going and have even more to come,” said Gordon.
SoutholdLOCAL photos by Maria Piedrabuena, except photos of children’s artwork courtesy of Doug Roberts